Friday, January 29, 2016

Incessant Divagation

by Rick Jones, Husband of the Minister's Wife

It's time to have a chat about your New Year's Resolutions.
I know, your first thought is, “Wouldn't it have been more appropriate to bring that up in December?”
No. Allow me to explain.
In December, we're told that it's time to look back, look forward, and decide to make the coming year better than the one which soon will pass. Traditionally, we try to accomplish that through a resolution, a declaration of intent to make a change that will result in self-improvement. It's a time of optimism and hope. That's not when I want to discuss resolutions, because my point of view is that the whole tradition is a waste of time, and probably does more harm than good.
The best time for spreading this message is the end of January, when at least 80% of New Year's Resolutions [NYRs] have already been broken. The top two resolutions are to lose weight, and to quit smoking. Consumer spending in early January is not affected by NYRs because cigarette sales decrease while gym membership sign-ups increase.
For most smokers, the result of their efforts is a miserable month of irritability and “the shakes”. They make themselves, their friends and their families miserable until they give up and start puffing like the little engine that could to replenish their bodies' supply of carcinogens.
For the fitness newbies, there's the January journey into clinical depression. The fitness club seems encouraging at first, but the thrill begins to fade when one realizes that weights are heavy, exercise involves more sweat than you thought, workout clothes are much less comfortable once you sweat in them, and twenty-five reps of anything are not nearly as refreshing and easy as five. Each session makes you more and more aware of your poor condition. For many resolvers, this is an annual event. Albert Einstein observed that repeating the same behavior while hoping for a different outcome is a mark of insanity.
The sense of futility is amplified in the showers. You see the truly fit, with bodies that make you ashamed to display your own. Worse, you see the out of shape patrons whose forms disgust you . . . then you realize that they are thinking the same about you. Many people also feel perpetually weary. It's a subconscious reaction to the fact that you're using so much Bengay and Tiger Balm that you smell like you're living in a nursing home.
Why are successful NYRs about as rare as snow in Hawaii? Because they aren't actualy resolutions – they are not motivated by determination, by true purposefulness. They are motivated by a vague loyalty to an annual tradition. That's not enough to sustain an ongoing effort. Thomas Edison, who conducted thousands of experiments to invent the light bulb, observed, “Our greatest weakness is in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time”. The strength to carry out that advice does not come from a “resolution” based on a ritual – especially a ritual that includes a presumption of probable failure within a month.
My personal solution for the resolution blues, ironically, involved a NYR. Many years ago, I resolved to never again make another New Year's resolution.

[Just as there are a few NYRs that are effective, I do know that it actually does snow every year in Hawaii, but most of the snow melts away in just a few days . . . disappearing just like most New Year's Resolutions.]


  1. I don't get it. You didn't mention the Beatles any where in the post. Wasn't that their song? "You say you want a resolution, well you know, we all want to change our world." The real problem with people making goals is the fact that so few are written out in detail. An Ivy League school study show that people with well defined written goals are likely to reach those goals but if the goals are unwritten or unplanned, they are unlikely to be met. Just saying...

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